Even though we live in the year 2016, we are not in a perfect or ideal society. Despite having passed many influential legal agreements in the name of civil rights and equality for all (such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act), there are still issues like gender bias that remain at large.
This is old news to young women aspiring to join the legal profession. Take Emily Calvin, a current legal student. Even though she would realistically describe her five-year plan as including one or two children, she would never say such a thing during a job interview.
“I can’t have the candid conversation with employers because it would disqualify me from employment.” said Calvin, who is currently studying at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law (a prestigious law school that has produced great legal minds including former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey and Florida Senator Dan Gelber).
When you dig deep into the research that has been done in the past few years, the results shout one answer in unison: gender bias is still an issue in the legal profession, and in a big way!
According to a 2012 survey from The American Lawyer, 80% of 92 major US law firms with a chief governing committee had two or fewer women on that committee. Even worse, 42% had only one woman and almost 10% had zero women on the committee. Also, a recent study through the Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Bar found that 43% of female respondents reporting in 2015 had experienced some sort of gender bias.
It is important to note that these issues are not unique to women. Minorities also face BAD THINGS in the workplace. If you’re a minority and a woman, then the odds are even further stacked against you!
So what should be done to correct these issues? Unfortunately, some of these cultural issues take a lot of time and persistent social change to whittle away.
On a personal and organizational level (for those of you in the legal profession), try to do the very best you can to be inclusive, non-discriminatory, and objective about the decisions you make. Little by little, we can change our discipline and make it a better place for women, and all people!